The Great Birthday Backpacking Adventure: Day 3

I know it’s been a hot minute since I (finally) posted about days 1 & 2 of my early June backpacking trip along the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; time gets away from me and the summer days are packed with both fun and obligatory happenings. Hopefully you haven’t been holding your breath in anticipation of a conclusion after reading about Day 1 and Day 2. (If you’ve been a regular here you definitely know better. We’re very slow but steady eventual bloggers.)

The second night of the trip we camped in an area called Mosquito River. As I said, that was not a misnomer. The camping spot was basically a mini campground with designated spots and a very rustic outhouse (which was still better than having to dig a hole in the ground). It was right on the Mosquito River in a lush, brilliantly green forest.

Day three’s hike started here with some more mini bluffs and a steep uphill climb. Both Adventure Guy and myself were well rested and ready to go after another breakfast of oatmeal and insta coffee. With only ten or eleven miles left to Munising Falls we knew we’d be done hiking by the end of the day. That put a little extra pep in our steps. Not that we weren’t enjoying this adventure but I, for one, was looking forward to hot showers and cold beer. The fierce hoard of mosquitoes that began swarming as soon as we hit the trail added to our motivation to move quickly.

After a few minutes of hiking and probably half a can of bug spray we stopped so I could put on one of the head nets we picked up on our way up North. The guy didn’t want his…or any bug spray at first (he did cave on the bug spray after a few more minutes of fighting the swarms). Mosquito Valley spanned the first four or so miles of the day. Apparently there’s also a Mosquito Falls but we decided not to take the detour to see it. The bugs along with the lure of showering and hot food played heavily in that decision. (Maybe we’ll get back up there sometime soon for some more hiking. The area really is amazing.)

We stopped as infrequently as possible on this patch of trail. Finally, after close to an hour and a half, we emerged from the trail into a parking lot with freshly cleaned porta-jons. I never thought I’d be so happy to see one of those things but they were so clean and the bugs couldn’t get in. There was a great little boat launch here (not a small launch, rather a launch for small boats like kayaks or canoes). On the other side of the parking lot the woods began thinning a bit and soon the shore of Lake Superior was in view again. Miner’s Beach was a short mile from there and finally we were out of the high intensity bug zone. What a relief that was!

When we got to the information center and “overlook” at Sand Point a few miles later a thick fog was rolling in. Like literally rolling in. We watched the view across the bay disappear.

It went from this…

…to this…

…and then this in maybe five minutes. Maybe.

And as you can see by the angle of the trees in those pictures the wind was picking up too; rain was about to happen. Despite our hunger, the shelters, & running water available we decided to just grab a quick snack and keep moving. There was some debate over whether or not to break out rain gear; jackets, but not rain pants (actually I was already wearing mine) were donned and we picked up the trail again as it headed back into the woods.

The ground was pretty wet throughout this last section of the trail (between Sand Point & Munising Falls). Some of the very muddy areas had boardwalk but much of it had a variety of branches, rocks, & tree debris to hop and step across if you wanted to avoid the thick black mud. And believe me, you wanted to avoid that mud! I did a so-so job of it and was damp and muddy from almost my knees down.

Along with mud and seemingly younger forest in this section there were these awesome fern sprawls. They looked like something straight out of Jurassic Park…

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Can’t you just imagine a T-Rex photo shopped into the background?

The last three miles of the day (and the trip) seemed to take forever, partially because cautiously picking a path over the muddy spots slowed us down. Sometime in this stretch it started to rain. It wasn’t too cold but we definitely ended up thoroughly drenched. Adventure Guy and I agreed that if this wasn’t our last day of backpacking the rain would really suck! As it was we were kind of enjoying it; it added to the sense of adventure as we trudged through the very wet woods.

Another cool feature of this leg of the journey was the waterfalls. There were so many of them! And a lot of them were very tall. While there are a couple falls noted on the map, most of these were not marked or named. They were just out there along the trail.

Sometimes the trail went right along the edge of the falls. It was crazy and somewhat intimidating for someone who doesn’t exactly love heights (such as myself).

That tree on the right is growing straight up out of the ravine.

It’s hard to tell but the line of yellow moss is the cliff edge. All that other stuff was waaay down there!

At the very end of the trail there was a detour. That was quite the disappointment because we were having a debate over where the North Country trail came out at the Munising Falls visitor center. I thought we might hike right behind the falls where we saw the frozen falls back in February but the guy thought we might pop out right by the visitors center. I guess we’ll have to go back to see someday because we were directed out of the woods and onto a small stretch of road that put us in the visitors center parking lot.

And finally we were done!

I was hoping to get to the visitors center in time to stamp our National Parks passports… We just missed it. By maybe two minutes, probably less. There was still a park ranger inside but the doors were locked. This was our second near miss with the stamps at the Munising Falls visitor center.

I was pretty mad about not getting stamps and also very wet and tired. We threw all the soaked gear in the back of the car and turned up the heat. Sitting down on a cushioned seat felt amazingly luxurious.

We did it!!!

On day three we hiked from Mosquito River to Munising Falls, roughly 11 miles, for a total of 42 miles on the North Country Scenic trail (from Grand Marais to Munising) plus all the side run-offs for scenic overlooks and campsites… 45 miles of backpacking in three days.

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Traveling Forward

 

It’s about 11:30 Sunday night and I’m not looking forward to Monday morning, this one more so than usual. It’s an After-Break-Monday. Not only did we have the weekend off but the kids have had a whole week off school and I had half a week. On top of that we went on a vacation, a real live, legitimate vacation. Well, as close as it gets. We left Tuesday evening around eight-thirty and drove 11 hours overnight to get to Georgia where two of my sisters, a brother-in-law, and a two-year-old nephew live. My parents started down Monday with two of my kids, my youngest sister and I followed with the other three. On Wednesday my youngest brother flew into Atlanta as well. It was basically the traditional family Thanksgiving displaced by five states. Maybe just a little smaller. I think we only had fifteen people at dinner. That’s small for my giant family.

So we went on vacation and celebrated Thanksgiving but come morning it’s back to reality. Reality has been stressing me out lately; I’m tired of reality. Life seems to be in one of those weird flux states where major changes are on the horizon, possible paradigm shift level changes. Except it’s not clear what those changes are going to be or what I should be doing to make them happen. Like most changes, this one (or maybe these ones) are driven by discomfort. Nothing really changes when everything feels okay does it?

For one, I’m almost done with school. The Bachelor’s degree part of it at least. Still no word on dental school (other than that they’ve received my application but that’s old news). I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t driving me a little crazy and stressing me out quite a bit. It’s at the prepare for the worst while hoping for the best phase now. More than half the interview sessions have taken place; realistically I need to be looking at what to do to improve my chances when I apply again in the next cycle, such as retaking the DAT. Jeez, why can’t I just get invited to interview already?!? I really don’t want to take that again. (said in an appropriately whiny voice) And I’m not sure I can afford to retake it. I mean, I can’t afford not to but i have no idea how I’m going to pay for it….which leads me to the next area of stress and uncertainty in my life: my job.

I’m still chugging away at the same third shift, part-time job that I’ve had for the past five years and it’s fine, but I’ve only got one class this coming semester. It’s the last two credits I need to graduate and I’ve decided to pay out of pocket for the class instead of taking another extra class to qualify for financial aid. On paper it’s a smart move but my pockets are a little empty right now. I’ll only have one day a week of classes starting in January, it’s time to either bump up my hours at work (if that’s even a possibility) or look for a new, full-time job. Maybe one in the field I’m graduating in. I have no idea how that process works though and if, on the very off chance, I do still get into dental school this year I’d only be working for a few months. However, if I don’t get into dental school I’ll have to start paying on my student loans in June(ish)…It might be time to pay the piper and that’s a scary thought.

Heck, the whole new job idea is scary!

I’m having trouble even fathoming what hours I’m available to work and what I’d like to do or maybe, more practically thinking, what I’m qualified to do. Not to mention how one even goes about finding a “real” job. Agh, so much unknown! Hopefully I’ll find something that will support my family a little more comfortably than we’ve been (it would be nice to actually pay medical bills when they come in instead of saving them all for tax time), something during day time hours that doesn’t require working the whole weekend every other weekend. That would be ideal…but even that’s intimidating. There’s a part of me that worries finding a normal, 9-5ish day job will make me so…so…I don’t know, ordinary?

My schedule has been pretty damn insane for the past five years. I went from working 74 nighttime hours in seven days and having seven days off to working 40 hours over the weekend every other weekend so I could go to school Monday through Friday as needed. When I went part time three years ago I was so relieved not to be working the seven days anymore, that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t just settle back into something like that again. I’m burned out on working nights and weekends but I don’t know if I know how to have a “normal” job and manage my life. It would certainly be very different for me. I’d have to run in the evenings or *gasp* early mornings  like all you other poor schmucks. I’ll have to grocery shop on the weekends or late at night. Weird! So weird!

It’s time to move forward, to transition and adapt. It’s a good thing. Having free weekends would be downright amazing. Not being overly stressed about paying my bills would be a giant relief. I just need to wade through this mess of fear and self-doubt that’s anchoring my feet to the ground, immobilizing me in my tracks. It’ll happen. I’ll get there one uncertain step at a time. In the meantime I’m avoidance cleaning today. I got a new vacuum cleaner and it’s amazing! So there’s that.

And to wrap this somewhat distracted but of drivel up, here are a some more pics from the trip to Georgia including Stone Mountain and a Thanksgiving day “Gobble Jog” fun run in Marietta.

On Castles and Capes

Did you know there are castles in Ohio? OHIO! Of all the places!

My kids and I took a trip to Dayton over Labor Day weekend to visit our friends there (well, my friends really but I’m working on making them my kids’ friends as well). A few weeks earlier my daughter had pointed out that we hadn’t really gone anywhere this summer and asked for a road trip. Any kind of road trip would do but she’d like to leave the state. So we made plans to trek south to the Not-as-great-as-Michigan state of Ohio. Shortly before our trip I made the serendipitousl discovery  of castles in Ohio (on Pinterest of all places). Granted some of them are more castle-esque manors than actual castles, at least one of them is a legit castle.

 

While definitely a castle this thing is relatively young. Some super smart dude who was very into architecture, like five degree into it, moved to Ohio after serving in World War I and started building The Loveland castle in 1930. He worked on it until his death in 1981.

castle-j-5He might have lived there and the place was and is open to Boy Scout groups camping on the grounds and also is the world headquarters for this order of knights the guy started. Now it seems to mostly function as a tourist attraction and wedding site. The inside of the castle is not very ornate but it’s done in tenth century Normandy style so that seems appropriate. The gardens are pretty cool though and it has an active bee hive area. That’s not open to visitors but my daughter claims to have snuck back there. In addition the castle is located on one of Ohio’s many rivers and a small county park with canoe access is right in front of the castle. So one could theoretically canoe to a castle. How cool is that?

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My daughter, always the explorer, found some hike-able terrain near the river bank.

On Labor Day, the day after we returned home, my family was having one of its massive birthday dinners. This time it was only for four people and I had gifts for three of the four with the fourth being my one-year-old niece. I figured I could whip something up in the hour of free time I had Monday morning but was having trouble (and wasting precious making time) deciding what. A series of random texts to my sister revealed that the birthday girl did not have use for bibs and was not need any clothing items. I thought about making an apron or some baby doll clothes but wasn’t thrilled with contributing to the socialization of little girls to be the cookers and cleaners-up of the world while ..I was slightly stumped until I remembered the cape I had made for my daughter when she was little and how much she loved it. I’ve made other capes as quick birthday gifts over the years and they’re always a hit. Plus they’re pretty quick to make. Bonus!

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The lavender material was left over from a fabric dying project in my daughter’s art class last spring. I butted the bottom of the cape up to the already hemmed edge to minimize mundane sewing and maximize construction efficiency. After doing a small rolled hem on the sides, I cut a two inch wide strip of fleece for the neckline. Rolling that over the top (which I roughly hemmed to prevent fraying and fabric degradation)made a nice soft neckline which was finished off by a couple of pieces of red ribbon.

I fee handed a large block M from some other leftover fabric, attached mid-weight fusible interfacing, and used a zig-zag stitch around the edges to attach it to the center of the cape.

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Ba-da-bing, ba-daBang!

While it’s rather large for the one-year-old, it fit her big sister perfectly.

 

Methinks another cape might be in order next spring when this girl has a birthday. Different letter of course.

Some castle garden pics for the road…

 

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The actual birthday girl who will be swimming in her new cape for at least another year.

Unaccompanied Minor

My hands still shake a little as they maneuver the familiar bamboo needles around the yarn. Poke under, loop over, duck through, slide off: the familiar motions calm as they distract. Nervous energy dissipates.
It’s spring break, I’m at the airport. We’ve made it through check in and security, stopped at the overpriced airport store for a quick lunch, and arrived at the gate with just enough time. Airline employees have announced that boarding has begun, the waiting crowd funnels into the plastic looking tunnel. The plane is overbooked and they are paying volunteers to stay behind. I’m still waiting. My daughter was allowed to board early, an “unaccompanied minor”. It’s her first flight, my first time in an airport as an adult which reminds me of how small my life is; like the contents of a snow globe, detailed and busy but quiet and contained. Isolated. Lacking scope and broad scale perspective. Not by choice, by circumstances.
The plane is taxied away from the gate so that is facing me. All those people unknowingly looking directly at me, sitting here in the now quiet gate alone. I can feel the contrast. My little girl, really not so little anymore, among their ranks. I wonder if she’s nervous now, sitting in the back of the crowded plane alone. About to embark on something possibly resembling an adventure. I’m excited for her as I watch the plane roll away. They told me to stay until her plane had taken off. Just in case.
Just in case is a scary thought. It keeps us grounded.  Those things that can happen and sometimes do, just often enough to keep us vaguely afraid of the unknown, they hold us back from taking the first steps toward something new, possibly a bigger life, complete with new challenges and a change of perspective. I almost didn’t agree to this trip because of the what-ifs, the just in case. It’s my job to keep my daughter safe. She’s never flown before; sending her off on a giant airplane (that may be prone to crash) alone is intimidating. Fear was holding me back, possibly reasonable fear but fear nonetheless. But then I thought about my lovely young daughter and what I want for her in life. I want her to be kind and compassionate, I want her to be successful in the endeavors she embarks on, to have the persistence and courage to try new things, to take risks, and see them through. Among other things I want her to be bold and brave in her own quiet, strong way. Earlier in the school year I encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and join the student government at her middle school…and she did. But here I was letting fear disguised as caution prevent her from an opportunity that would encourage that same boldness, independence, and bravery I want to foster in her. I watch my daughter’s plane roll out of sight, wheels still on the ground, and think about the task of filtering out the bad while letting the good pass through. It’s one of the trickiest parts of parenting, one that requires good judgement and foresight along with a fair deal of trust, just enough trust that things will work out to balance the fear that they won’t. Because sometimes they don’t. Just because nothing bad has ever happened before doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen. Boldness tempered with caution.

Finally the plane carrying my girl is out of sight. Most likely it has left the ground and I’m free to leave but it’s peaceful here now, the airport sunny and quiet. The too few hours of sleep after working a short third shift threaten to catch up to me as I sit calmly in the warm, window filtered sunlight. I could nap here, despite the steady flow of strangers passing by, but my own small, busy, hectic life calls and begs my immediate return.
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